Public Restrooms: Hazards and Usage

By: Gideon Oyeyinka

The term restroom is typically used in public places such as restaurants, hotels, and airports to refer to a room or area that is designated for personal hygiene and using the toilet. Restrooms may contain multiple stalls or urinals.  In the case of the University of Ibadan, the abuse or misuse of restrooms are unavoidable.; either in halls of residence, faculties, and departments. Great care must be taken while using these restrooms so you don’t pick up some diseases that can cause harm to your health, which will further affect the time you should have spent on your studies. 

Here are some of the diseases that can be contracted in public restrooms:

  1. Norovirus: This highly contagious virus can cause gastroenteritis, characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Norovirus can survive on surfaces for up to two weeks and is easily spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as toilet seats, door handles, and faucets. It can be prevented by washing your hands often, rinsing fruits and vegetables and even staying away when sick and for two days after symptoms stop.
  2. Escherichia Coli (E. Coli): This bacteria is commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals, but certain strains can cause severe gastrointestinal illness. E. coli can be transmitted through contact with fecal matter, which can be present on toilet seats and other surfaces in a public restroom. It can be prevented by cooking meats thoroughly, and avoiding raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices.
  3. Hepatitis A: This viral infection affects the liver and can cause symptoms such as yellow skin or eyes, not wanting to eat, upset stomach, throwing up, fever, dark urine or light-colored stools, diarrhea, joint pain, fever, fatigue, and abdominal pain. Hepatitis A can be spread through contact with contaminated fecal matter or by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with the virus. The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination with the Hepatitis A vaccine, however, practicing good hand hygiene — including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food — plays an important role in preventing the spread of Hepatitis A.
  4. Streptococcus: This bacteria can cause a range of infections, including strep throat, skin infections, and pneumonia. It can be transmitted through contact with surfaces contaminated with the bacteria, such as doorknobs, faucets, and toilet seats. It can be prevented by proper hygiene practices.
  5. Fungal infections: Public bathrooms can be breeding grounds for various types of fungi, including athlete’s foot molds and yeasts. Fungal infections can cause skin rashes, itching, and other symptoms, and can be spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or through inhalation of fungal spores in the air. It can be prevented by keeping your skin clean and dry, particularly the folds of your skin, washing your hands often, especially after touching animals or other people, avoiding using other people’s towels and other personal care products, wearing shoes in locker rooms, community showers, and swimming pools, most especially, maintaining good hygiene practices.
  6. Typhoid Fever (Salmonella Typhi): Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi. It is a potentially serious disease that is spread through contaminated food and water or by close contact with an infected person. Typhoid fever is more common in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene practices. Its symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, and a rash. Without treatment, the infection can become severe and even life-threatening, with complications such as intestinal bleeding and perforation. It can be prevented by important practices of good hygiene, such as washing hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom, before eating or preparing food, and after handling raw meat. It is also important to drink only clean, safe water, and to avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, fish, or eggs.

To reduce the risk of contracting these and other diseases in a public restroom, amongst all that has been mentioned particularly for each, it is important to practice good hygiene, as it is common to all. Such good hygiene practices include washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the bathroom and using a paper towel to open the door when leaving. Avoid touching your face, mouth, or eyes while in the restroom, and consider using a seat cover or toilet paper to protect against contact with contaminated surfaces.

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